Thursday, March 17, 2016

Multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist, BILL LAURENCE, a founding member of Snarky Puppy, releases AFTERSUN

That journey has led Laurance, an English native currently living in London, across the globe and through a myriad of award-winning musical projects. A world-renowned multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist dubbed a "jazz maestro" by The Guardian, Laurance is probably best known as a founding member of Snarky Puppy, the Grammy-winning collective based out of Brooklyn.

On his own, Laurance--a professional musician since the age of 14--has performed with an array of musical talents, including Morcheeba, David Crosby, Salif Keita, Bobby McFerrin, Susana Baca, Laura Mvula, Musiq Soul Child, the Metropole Orchestra and Trinidadian priestess Ella Andel. He's also worked with several world-famous dance companies, including Alvin Ailey, Ballet Rambert, Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures, Phoenix Dance, Northern Ballet Theatre and the English National Ballet. And, in his limited free time (he also runs a music production company called Twenty Thousand and is a specialist lecturer at the Institute of Contemporary Music in London), Laurance has released two critically-acclaimed solo albums, 2014's Flint (a #1 album on the iTunes jazz charts) and 2015's Swift. If Flint was an exercise in breaking down genre barriers and Swift was a larger piece that connected deep grooves with a classical sensibility, Laurance's new album Aftersun is a project that places African percussion at its heart, mixed in with elements of jazz and dance.

For the recording, Laurance joined Snarky Puppy's Michael League, Robert "Sput" Searight (Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu) and legendary percussionist Weedie Braimha at the beautiful Parlor Studios in New Orleans. Here, Laurance stripped back the sound of his previous records, "getting to the heart of my instinct as an instrumentalist" and focused on the drums. It's a record built off the presence of Braimah, a dynamic drummer born in Ghana and who's lived and played in New Orleans. "He's the real deal," says Laurance. He adds: "A lot of what we recorded was improvised live. I was interested in capturing spontaneity in the recording, to have fewer prescribed ideas. I specifically left particular groove sections open so we could realise them organically in the studio."

Besides that percussive groove, Aftersun also plays like a pictorial soundtrack. "The majority of my writing is visual or visually inspired," says Laurance, crediting his work with dance companies and in film. "I begin with a visual stimulus, often whilst on the road. Aftersun was conceived as a soundtrack to the summer. I wanted to instill that with my experience of working with dance companies, allowing the drums and percussion to lead the way.". He laughs, "to be honest, I also happened to be watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos while I was writing the album. I was preoccupied and inspired by the countless unanswered questions of the universe. The title track Aftersun, directly speaks to that."

Coming up for Laurance: a live album DVD, recorded at London's Union Chapel, a solo piano record, more work with Snarky Puppy, and--of course--a tour for Aftersun. "It'll be pretty open on stage," Laurance suggests, noting his penchant for improv. Plus, the musician is also working on a vocal album utilizing different guest singers. "As a kid I was a Michael Jackson fan before I was a John Coltrane fan. I want to revisit the pop genre and incorporate that into my sound. For me it's all about the continued exploration."

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